Paper Towels Don’t Just Kill Trees

Paper towels don’t just kill trees.

They kill the family of baby birds nesting in the tree, leaving bird parents lost and wondering what happened to their children.

They kill the raccoon and opossum babies who were sleeping in a warm nest with their mothers.

They kill the insects and spiders that live on and around the tree.

They kill the plants around the tree, the sorrel, the ferns, the rhododendrons.

Giant tires from the machines that rip the tree from the ground smash the homes of mice and salamanders, killing them too.

Those same tires leave mud that drains into nearby streams, harming the lives that live there.

Paper towels don’t just kill trees; they destroy the lives of everything living nearby. Is it really worth it to destroy an entire community just so your hands can be dry?

Shake off your hands and let them air dry.
Death of an Ecosystem
More Death of an Old Growth ForestThe deaths of these trees mean the deaths of many others whose bodies we don’t see, left to rot in the forest. The forest “managers,” the corporations who profit from this death may have piled some of the destruction into mounds and set fire. All this death and destruction for what?

Turkey Decimation Day

Here again, my annual posting of the sonnet I wrote in college about turkey murder on our holiday. I’ve gone back and tried again and again to get the exact syllabic format for a completely proper sonnet, but could not find words to replace those here that would maintain the imagery and metaphoric content that I want, and so it stays the same.

Thanksgiving Sonnet
Turgid turkeys, strained into rickety wooden coffins, exit four-by-four from a ten-ton hearse. Into the turkey mill: mutilation, holocaust.

Perspiring hormones, Tom Turkey stares with one sad eye at a crumbling chimney tower belching death in putrid smoke, blackening holiday skies. Annihilating light.

Bodies, bones. None remain unfrozen. With elaborate precision he’s taken apart; neck, gizzards tied in a bag between his ribs, head ground neatly into pink hot dog slabs.

Holiday skies are crowded with turkey souls, ascending to heaven like deflated balloons.

ChickensTurkeys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lovely film that all should watch is My Life as a Turkey. Watch it online here.

There was only one time in US history when refugees actually did wipe everyone out—and we’ll be celebrating it on Thursday.” — John Oliver

This culture…

…makes me want to blow something up.

Link to ban pig cages. Click this link if you want to sign an online petition that will do nothing and go nowhere, but will make you feel better for having done “something.”

I have spent the last 3 days nursing a baby chicken that will probably die. She is in my bra right now, keeping warm against my breast, peeping when I move. She is weak and I’m not sure what is wrong with her. I prize her little beak open with a toothpick and pop in pieces of chick feed. I dip her beak in water laced with probiotics and electrolytes. She was born in an incubator, fed some gel with vitamins in it, and mailed in a box with 24 other babies the day she was born. Her mother lays eggs. Constantly. She will never know this baby and her baby will never know her mother. These eggs are placed in the incubator that makes the babies that get shipped around the world. It takes too much time for Mama to brood those babies. Better to get them in an assembly line and send them out. Oh, and before they’re mailed out, someone who is trained to run their thumb along their vent, essentially their anus and egg tube, ascertains whether they are male or female. If the person isn’t careful they can kill the chick by destroying its internal organs. This sometimes happens, but you know. Collateral damage and all that. So they separate the girls and the boys. The males, no one talks about what happens to those chicks, though in death culture, it’s a pretty good bet that it’s nothing pretty. Those who pass the test are mailed out. They usually toss in a couple of extra because it’s a given that some won’t make it. The weak ones. The weak ones, who if they get as far as the farm store or the home of the well meaning buyer, will likely die soon and get picked on in the process. Nature, you know. She’s a bitch. Except this isn’t fucking nature. It’s fucking insane and I’ve been just grieving it because to me, this entire way of doing things is a perfect metaphor for just how fucked up this culture is. Taking these babies BABIES! and fucking MAILING them. We have no soul.

In any case, I went to the farm store to buy some food for my horses. I peeked in the chicken cage to see the babies and I saw her sitting there, not doing well. A couple of the strong ones went and pecked her, and yeah, if it really were nature and she were out in the wild and were weak, that would be the best place to leave her. But this wasn’t fucking nature. This was a steel cage with red light bulbs and people staring in at these babies, so I opened the door and I scooped her out and I have kept her on me ever since. She has slept two nights sleeping in a bandana around my neck because it keeps her warm. Then tonight I turned on the facebook—a foolish thing to do, because there was this damn online petition to stop the caging of pigs and the photo accompanying it was so awful and so TYPICAL and so like the situation with these baby birds. Right. Sign an online petition and maybe someone will give a shit and ban these cages? Somehow, I doubt it. But the people “signing” it can feel like they did their duty and then get on with their lives. Fuck. Part of me doesn’t begrudge them trying to survive. But part of me does. Part of me begrudges them a damn lot. I’ll say something on the facebook and be that person again who turns the mirror at people and they’ll remove me from their notification list so their posts of online petitions don’t show up in my feed  and then I’ll tell them how useless this is. So turn me off because they don’t want to fucking know and this MAKES ME CRAZY. I post a happy picture of the baby chicks who were healthy frolicking on my desk and everyone gives me a thumbs up. I post all the bullshit that is wrong with this world and it’s crickets. My posts are a veritable field of crickets. Lonely crickets chirping through the night. No one likes the naysayers.

Ack. Why am I writing this? So I might feel a tenuous connection to someone, anyone who might get it. Might understand this frustration and grief. I HATE this culture with my entire being and soul. Saying it doesn’t make it better. I only hope I can save this one baby chick from this fucked up messed up WRONG world that hurts so much I can barely take it. It really and truly makes me want to blow something up.

Addendum the next day: I realized this morning that getting stuck in being angry just keeps the ugly going. Rather, I am going to continue to focus on being decent and loving. This doesn’t mean I’m not angry; just that if I think about blowing things up it just makes me feel worse. Doesn’t the anger come from the deepest love? It’s the manifestation of the anger that can be soul sucking. This culture likes to suck our soul through helplessness and frustration. I will instead put all my focus into loving this little darling right here. She made it through another night. Her breakfast this morning was cottage cheese, which was way easier to feed than chick crumbles. She perked right up then got super sleepy. Her little eyes closed, then her head gradually fell forward onto her little beak. Snore… Oh my goodness, she is the most precious little dear. I am in love with her sweetness. My poodle Oliver is lying on my lap snoring too. The sleepy family. They are wonderful.

Addendum later the next day: She died. I’m lucky I got to spend the time with her that I did. She was a blessing.

Round Peg in a Square Hole

In 2008 I sold a house. I had remodeled the house back to its original character, pulling out 70s carpet and mobile home wallboard, and installing built-ins and woodworking true to the house’s 1920’s charm. After the sale, I realized I had forgotten a little ceramic sun, a smiling cherub made by a local artist. I went to the house and asked the buyers if they had the sun. They told me they had thrown it away. Shocked and hurt, I said goodbye and left. Over the next several months, I heard from neighbors I remained in touch with that they had ripped out the built-in bookshelves, torn out all the shrubs in the back yard, and cut down the giant tree in the front yard. After hearing this I vowed never to return to this place into which I had poured literally years of my life making beautiful. I did not want to see how it had been ruined.

Five years ago I bought another bungalow, my first after the sale of the house in 2008. Built in 1941, it had been a rental for over 20 years. The seller chose mine from several offers based on the letter I wrote to her telling her about my two daughters and my desire to make a home for them. I loved this little house. It was darling and sweet, with an arch between the dining and living room, and tiny arches over the door bell on the wall and the phone nook. This little place was simply lovely.

The seller had installed new windows and had some plumbing done before the sale. She installed a new sewer line, which tore up the front yard. She covered the wound with sod to spruce things up. Upon move in, I set out to create a habitat for birds and bees. I covered the sod with native plants in varying sizes. I installed a watering system to keep everyone happy in the summer. I nurtured and watered and pulled the grass out by hand. No poisons touched this place. I planted small trees that grew tall, fluffy medium bushes, and flowers–so many flowers! Every spring and summer the yard hummed with the life of pollinators and birds, flitting among the plant life, which grew prolifically.

In spite of my love for this adorable house, I gradually grew to despise the city in which it was located. Thousands upon thousands of people were moving into Portland, and it was changing, and not in a good way. It stopped being friendly. Traffic became unbearable. Costs skyrocketed. I decided I needed to live somewhere less obnoxious, plus our whole family wanted to be closer to the land and away from cement and fuel exhaust and noise. After nearly two years of consideration I put my little house on the market, vowing that this time I would find a buyer who loved the house as much as I had. Someone who would care for the plants and gardens. Someone who cared about the character of the place and would not rip out the built-ins in the kitchen to replace with ugly granite counters and steel appliances.

Immediately after listing, someone stole four blueberry bushes out of the backyard. They dug them up, filled in the holes, and covered them with mulch. This broke my heart. I cried and cried, hoping that whomever had taken them would care for them as much as I had. I could only hope that they would show as much care for these plants as they had for hiding the evidence of their thievery.

I received a couple of offers, but both were much below asking price. Two weeks after listing, I received an offer that was below what I was asking, but not by much. As part of the offer, the prospective buyers wrote me a letter telling me how lovely the plants and landscaping were, and how they had seen the yard grow and change over the years, and how this made the house special to them. Oh wonderful! I thought. These are the kind of people I’m talking about. These people will take care of my house. I counter offered to a higher price and they accepted.

I have often in my life discovered that I can be quite naive when it comes to treachery. I don’t see it coming and when it happens, I am shocked and angered at my own naivete. In spite of my efforts to try and make this house sale different, I stupidly did not ask the right questions and made assumptions based on this letter that the people actually wanted to live there and leave the plants alone.

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. They have been gutting it and have a for rent sign out front and are planning to “thin” the trees and plants. Even worse, the neighbors discovered they are turning my darling bungalow into a duplex! (Although I guess I can’t call it mine anymore, now can I?) And unfortunately, since I let the guy know I was upset about this, he isn’t letting me come and remove the plants he is planning to kill at the end of the week. When I told the guy that I felt like I had been misled, he told me that he should never have talked to me because I am “too emotional.” Basically, Mr. Lack of Empathy turned his being a lying asshole into my problem because I had an emotional reaction to his destruction and dishonesty. What is really remarkable to me is that I had not really expressed much when he said this.

I’ve spoken to the neighbor, begged him to get in there and rescue things before they are killed. I don’t know if he will do it. He is one of the few people I know who loves plants as much as I do, but his yard is full and his husband has told him no more plants. I asked him just to take them out and I’ll come get them. The most frustrating part of this is the powerlessness that I feel. If I lived just a little bit closer, I would be there now with buckets and a shovel bringing those plants here with me. Getting further away from that city makes it that much harder to get there if I have some need to. I am going to complain about the realtor who brokered this deal, the realtor who allowed these people to lie to me and lead me to believe they were going to live in this house and take care of the plants when they were planning otherwise. I had many conversations with him about my desires. He knew what I wanted. He may have represented them and had a duty to them, but he also had a duty to be honest, and giving me a letter that implied other than their intentions was dishonest. At the very least, I am going to post reviews of him everywhere I can.

I don’t fit in this death culture. Most people, when they hear this story, ask me, “What’s the big deal? They’re just plants.” But why should it matter less because they are plants? Why are their lives worth less? Plus even more than that, what about the fact that habitat I created that was teeming with life? Why don’t those lives matter? For whatever reason, these liars want to destroy this mini ecosystem. No reason they could offer is justification for misleading me or for doing any of it. They want to gut the house and remodel? Fine, whatever. I’ve lived that. But to take out the plant life and destroy it, too is simply wrong. And telling me that this was what made the house so beautiful and special, just so that I would accept their offer is just plain evil.

This is the review I wrote on  the agent who represented the buyers: Mr. Michalowski represented the buyers when I sold my house. As part of their offer, the buyers wrote me a nice letter stating how much they loved the landscaping and beauty of my charming little home, and how they had enjoyed watching in change during the years that I owned it. In the course of negotiations, I explained to Mr. Michalowski that I was excited to have someone interested who wanted to live in and take care of my house. I told him that I didn’t want someone who was just going to rent it out. He never once insinuated that the buyer’s letter was a complete lie and that they intended to gut the house, kill the plants I had spent years nurturing, and turn the thing into a duplex. He did well by his clients, letting them lie to me so that the sale would go through. Now the sale is done, his pockets are lined, and the neighbors I promised would have a family next door will be subject to living with renters who don’t give a damn about the house or anything associated with it. I offered to take any plants the buyers wouldn’t want, but Mr. Michalowski said the sellers could make these arrangements once the sale was done. Landscapers are coming this week to “thin” including taking out trees I spent a fortune on and spent years nurturing to ensure they would grow. Devious and void of any integrity, that is how I would describe both these buyers and Mr. Michalowski. If you want an agent who will do the devil’s bidding, if you want a smooth operator who will skillfully lie and evade, he’s your man. If you want honesty and above-board negotiations and information, run.

The Split Begins Early

The Eagle Creek fire is destroying forests all around Mt. Hood in Oregon and across the river in Washington. There are many fires raging, but this one is particularly wretched because it is known that it was begun by a teenager playing with fireworks. The woman who reported his action and the actions of the other teens with him described them as non-reactive to the likelihood they had started a fire in a very dry forest (see the story here). She said the girls were giggling and that they all were encouraging his behavior. They filmed it, like it was something fun to put on SnapChat or something. The woman’s description of these kids sounded like children who are very disconnected from their actions and the consequences for those actions.

In My Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization, Chellis Glendinning describes the split, the dissociation from the self, that occurs in humans when they become “civilized.” Civilization is built on abuse and destruction. We began by destroying the land in order to grow things according to our own will. This led to abuse upon abuse upon abuse, to the point where abuse is the norm. Derrick Jensen, in The Myth of Human Supremacy, describes how in western civilization, we are indoctrinated from the moment of birth into a belief system whereby humans rule everything and that all the world is at their disposal. To my mind, the original sin was that of humans leaving the earth to “tame” and control it, bending it to their will, first through agriculture and on to the world we have today, where every aspect of the world is under human control. The Garden of Eden was the world before humans decided that they were “special” and that everything should be as humans decree. Thus, the split was born. Humans disconnect first from their selves, then from others, and finally from the world around them. Humans are the most invasive species, and the world is suffering because of it.

Today, that indoctrination begins practically before a child is born. It is not uncommon in this country for doctors and parents to schedule births induced by chemicals. That such births often result in the death of the fetus or the mother, or in an invasive surgical Caesarean section is no matter; it is a given that in most western births, induction of some sort will be the norm. Those of us who choose to have children at home with no drugs or medical intervention are considered bizarre and dangerous, as if the control of the hospital and the intervention of drugs is the more safe, and therefore, more sane route to childbirth. We are the wild west parents, putting ourselves and our delicate children in danger rather than having a birth controlled by chemicals and machines (or a doctor’s golf schedule).

Once the child is born, it is immediately placed into a system designed to disconnect it from anything remotely resembling connection to the self or its parents. The split is encouraged early. A “good” baby is one that sleeps all night as young as possible, without interrupting its parent’s lifestyle. One of the most common early questions of new parents is whether their child is sleeping through the night (because a baby who isn’t sleeping through the night makes it impossible for parents to sleep through the night, and discomfort of any kind is to be avoided at all costs in civilization).

Thousands of books have been written on the subject of getting children to sleep through the night alone. Doctors create systems such as that of Dr. Richard Ferber, whereby parents let their tiny infants scream and cry until they learn that their cries bring nothing and they finally give up and shut up. It is the ultimate in teaching children from a very early age not to trust that the world around them will be safe and welcoming. The parents hover outside, periodically going in and patting the child, then retreating to let it cry even further, viewing the action from a monitor in another room. It is pure insanity.

Children cannot tolerate sleeping away from their parents, and small babies need to be fed more frequently than once every eight hours, but never mind this. Parents still do it in western culture. Children are placed in cages in separate rooms away from their parents to sleep alone within days of birth. The parents hover over electronic monitors and cameras, rather than have their children in the same room or indeed, even in the same bed as them. In western civilization, a child who sleeps with its parents is considered to be “spoiled,” like a piece of meat gone bad. I have often wondered how bizarre it would be if wolves and bears laid their cubs in separate caves far from their mothers. What if mice placed each bare infant in multiple holes far from their warm breasts? Mammals have breasts for feeding infants. Only human mammals place their children in cages far from their breasts forcing them to ignore their own needs and call it normal (it’s an entire other subject and outside the scope of this rant how our language encourages all this crazy nonsense).

In addition to putting children in cages and ignoring their basic needs, parents feed them fake milk from plastic nipples rather than from their own breasts. In spite of multiple studies showing that this is bad for babies, bad for mothers, and even bad for the economy (which I could care less about, but which is a major force in this culture), breastfeeding children as long as nature intended remains a rare thing indeed among western mothers.

By the time children are two or three years old, they are already completely desensitized from what they were meant to be biologically. With the advent of iPads and other screen devices that further entertain and rewire the brain (see here, and here, and here), screens as babysitters are the norm. It’s no wonder that by the time some children are teenagers, they can toss firecrackers into a dry ravine and giggle as a fire begins to rage.

I could go on and on. This culture is crazy. Civilization is not how life is meant to be on this planet. We are the Earth. The Earth is us. Yet we continue to pretend we are separate and above it even as the obvious fact that we are not and that our attempts to control everything do not work. Mama Nature knows what is best. Sadly, we seem unable to see what is right in front of our faces and senseless destruction is the result.

Stuff and Things

It occurs to me that most people in our culture have lost sight of the fact that in chasing money, we are essentially chasing things. Someone wants a thing, and their desire for more money is the desire to have as many things as they want, when they want them. That’s what having more money brings. I’m not talking about the people at the very bottom of our capitalist triangle who have to struggle just to survive, those for whom a few dollars would mean the ability to stay very basically comfortable. I’m talking about any level above having what one needs to survive easily: a safe place to sleep, food, and health well-being. “Security” as it has been sold to us, is theoretically having enough money in the bank to ensure the safe place to sleep, food, and health. Yet for most it goes beyond that into wanting to have things. Ask anyone with dreams of riches and it is the lying on the beach or yacht anytime that they want, the clothes, the jewelry, the gadgets, the cars, and on and on, that fill their dreams. Pinterest is filled with photos of all the things that humans want. People will spend hours creating these online photo albums of all the stuff they desire. (In the meantime, while posting these things and dreaming about them, the interactions with humans and other non-human animals around them are limited.)

Yesterday I dropped off some stuff at the donation center. We are moving so we are getting rid of stuff. I have felt this immense urge to purge. What is all this stuff? The line at the place was cars deep, everyone ridding themselves of things, some of which had to have been wanted at some point. Either that or or they were ridding themselves of stuff someone gave them either out of a sense of duty to give, some obligation, or some other self-serving necessity. Perhaps for some the thing was given in love and received as such, but at this point, the thing is now being discarded, filling a warehouse, filling a landfill, being sold into places where the abundance of things is not as profuse as it is in the good, ol’ USA. Stuff, stuff, everywhere. In the meantime, we destroy the earth to build enormous buildings to house the things. We rape and pillage the land to carve roads and fill the land with things, things that will rot in piles long after we are gone.

How Not to React?

Modern civilization’s poisons do not agree with me. They make my skin itch, my nose and lungs snort and sneeze, my toenails crumble, my brain refuse to sleep, my body react in rashes and aches and all assortment of physiological responses. My body says, No! to the way things are.

I do the dances necessary to avoid these things. I turn up my nose at edible food-like substances pretending they are something I would want to ingest. I do not use lotions and potions and other chemicals in an effort to avoid one of those dratted physiological responses. I don’t drink alcohol because it makes my stomach ill and my head hurt. I don’t take drugs (including “legal” ones) because my body yells at me when I do. I don’t eat meat, or vegetables with chemicals on them. I don’t wear metal because it makes me itch.

I do ALL OF THESE THINGS and AVOID ALL THE BAD THINGS, yet I still, still! have reactions to the world around me because in spite of my controlling all the things I can control, there is still oh, so much that is outside of my control and damn it if my body doesn’t react to that crap, too. What the hell is a person supposed to do? How do we get away when the dominant culture doesn’t give a shit if your body reacts to the garbage they are dumping into the atmosphere and onto the surface of the earth and into its waters? They have even co-opted the attempts to avoid by making “detoxification” something one can pay for as well. Here, let’s poison you, and we’ll charge you to do it, and then, Here, let’s detoxify you, and we’ll charge you for that as well. (This ensures you stay on the treadmill this system has created to keep you a slave and take your life. (We’ll let you pretend that your life is your own, but we know better.))

I suppose the only thing that I can do is to keep avoiding as much as I can and be like the rest of the non-human world that has to contend with us and our ways, hiding under my rock or in my nest. Outer space simply isn’t an option.

Population Reduction

I read another article today about how humans need to change their eating habits if we are going to survive. In it, the author presumed a human population of 10 billion by 2050.

What I would like to know is why the population numbers are taken as a given and considering reducing population numbers is never even explored. If humans really want to make a meaningful impact, we are going to have to do more than change our eating habits. We are going to have to reduce our populations to much smaller numbers. We are going to have to accept that some of us cannot have children. That is the price we all have to pay in order to have any possibility of survival (which is slim anyway, considering our many destructive impacts on this planet).

Of course, any time anyone brings up the possibility of reducing population everyone starts screaming and jumping up and down that we are going to infringe on rights or force poorer populations to stop having families, but overreacting and assuming the worst-case scenario doesn’t alter the current trajectory and distracts from the reality that if we don’t do it, nature is going to do it for us, and it’s going to do it in a much crueler manner than we could. Death by starvation is not pretty. Humans cannot continue living as they have. Humans with greater resources cannot continue living like their needs are the only needs, and ignoring the entire planet in the process.

It’s a fact–the planet is not limitless and living like it is will ensure its destruction.

Depopulation Events

“A total world population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal.” — Ted Turner, in an interview with Audubon magazine

“The Planetary Regime might be given responsibility for determining the optimum population for the world and for each region and for arbitrating various countries’ shares within their regional limits. Control of population size might remain the responsibility of each government, but the Regime would have some power to enforce the agreed limits.” — John P. Holdren: from Ecoscience

“The elderly are useless eaters.” — Henry Kissinger: from “The Final Days.”

Does anyone else worry that a bunch of rich people are just planning to kill the rest of us? There is evidence out there that a bunch of corporate leaders are planning a world depopulation event. Maybe a few. Good times. Listen here if interested.

Thanksgiving Sonnet

Here again, my annual posting of the sonnet I wrote in college about turkey murder on our holiday. I’ve gone back and tried again and again to get the exact syllabic format for a completely proper sonnet, but could not find words to replace those here that would maintain the imagery and metaphoric content that I want, and so it stays the same.

Thanksgiving Sonnet
Turgid turkeys, strained into rickety wooden coffins, exit four-by-four from a ten-ton hearse. Into the turkey mill: mutilation, holocaust.

Perspiring hormones, Tom Turkey stares with one sad eye at a crumbling chimney tower belching death in putrid smoke, blackening holiday skies. Annihilating light.

Bodies, bones. None remain unfrozen. With elaborate precision he’s taken apart; neck, gizzards tied in a bag between his ribs, head ground neatly into pink hot dog slabs.

Holiday skies are crowded with turkey souls, ascending to heaven like deflated balloons.

ChickensTurkeys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lovely film that all should watch is My Life as a Turkey. Watch it online here.

There was only one time in US history when refugees actually did wipe everyone out—and we’ll be celebrating it on Thursday.” — John Oliver

How to Get Rid of a Smelly Sponge

How come kitchen sponges are smelly?

I made a discovery about stinky sponges. I’ve always make a point of squeezing all the water out of a dish sponge so that it doesn’t sit and fester and smell. When I used to have a dishwasher, I would wash the sponge in it periodically to disinfect it with hot water. I have also sprayed the stinky sponge with bleach, which I don’t like to do because it gets a toxic chemical near our dishes.

For a few years now though the sponges in our house have not been stinky. I attributed this to vigilant sponge squeezing. We also have a little rack that hangs on the side of the sink to put the sponge in so it doesn’t sit stewing in water. The sponge used to really smell when I lived with my ex who would leave it in a puddle in the bottom of the sink. We’ve been apart for over five years now and the sponge hasn’t smelled since then. Keep it dry, keep it on the side of the sink. Problem solved, or so I thought.

Then I made an interesting discovery.

For the longest time, I purchased mainstream dish washing liquid  like Dawn™.  When I moved back home to Portland and was able to shop again at New Seasons, I started buying more environmentally friendly soaps that smelled really good like Mrs. Meyers Clean Day™. Oh, I love that soap. It’s not much more expensive than the mainstream stuff and it smells so delicious.

One day, we ran out of dish washing soap and I was at some store that isn’t New Seasons buying who knows what. The store didn’t have any options for dish washing soap other than mainstream brands. I bought a jug of Dawn™ and didn’t think much of it. It doesn’t smell pretty like Mrs. Meyers™, but we were out of soap and it was there so I bought it. I thought little of it beyond that.

Then a couple of weeks later, I realized that no matter how much I squeezed out our sponge, it smelled. Bad. I couldn’t figure why until I remembered the dish washing liquid change and wondered if this was what caused the smell to return so I decided to try an experiment.

I bought some more of the Mrs. Meyers™ environmentally friendly soap and started using it instead of the Dawn™. I did this for a week and the smelly sponge went away. I used the Dawn™ again for a week. The smelly sponge returned.

My conclusion?

Smelly sponges have nothing to do with how much water you squeegy out of them, they smell because of the detergent used to wash dishes. I have no doubt of this. I’ve tried a variety of different soaps including Trader Joe’s dish washing soap. No smell. Biocleen™. No smell. J.R. Watkins™. No smell. Seems to be the Dawn™ that makes the sponge smelly for whatever reason.

I still have the jug of Dawn™ under my sink way in the back. It’s there because I’m not sure how to dispose of it without putting it in a landfill and somehow that feels as bad as dumping chemicals in a landfill. I’m sticking with the good stuff. Dawn™ might “cut grease” but God only knows what else it’s doing that it allows bacteria to fester in the dish sponge and make it smell like old feet. Yuck. No, thank you.

Smoke and Fire

Love wins today. Love always wins. In this moment, there is love. The fear I feel from these fires is filled with love for this earth. The earth is us and we have eaten her like a cancer, eaten ourselves.

Our city was covered in smoke today blown in from wildfires in eastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. The entire Willamette Valley was covered in smoke. This fills me with sadness and dismay. I awakened because I needed to go to the bathroom. My room was stuffy because during the day Saturday the girls closed out the smoke. When I went to bed I didn’t reopen the window. When I awakened, the room felt stuffy so I opened the window to let in some fresh air. The breeze blowing in was crisp and smelled fresh. No smoke. But it got me thinking about the smoke and fires, awakened me. I looked on the internets and read stories about the smoke and fires and wept.

We are killing our planet, humans. We have to face reality. These fires. This water shortage. This changed summer that is like nothing we have ever experienced. These heat waves over and over and over. 2 degrees Celsius average increase means temperatures of 130 degrees. Can you live with that?

We are taking something so beautiful and killing it for our convenience. What have we gained? What has industrialization gained us? We have less time to spend together than ever before. We live in boxes separated from one another and stare at screens in our hands and on our desks instead of looking at one another and what do we get from it? Our planet burns. It sweeps water from the oceans across the land. We are destroying species at rates unheard of for millions of years. Yes, it is us. For convenience. What will it take to wake people up? Will it be our own extinction?

I hold my small daughter in my arms and feel such love for her and also such real grief and fear of what she will grow up into.

Nature does bat last, but really, who wins this if the planet is burned and gone?

Backpacking, Bursitis, and Lonely Hearts

Backpacking Separation Creek Loop

IMG_6314The guidebook for backpacking the Separation Creek Loop in the Three Sisters Wilderness of the Willamette National Forest recommends hiking the loop counterclockwise. The only reason I can gather for this recommendation is that the author of the guide seemed to believe most packers would start out on a Saturday (he says as much). Hiking counterclockwise would put one at the busiest part of the trail after the weekend, thereby ensuring the packer would not hit this section of the trail while it was busy.

Did it occur to the author that backpackers might actually start on another day of the week? There is at least a one-in-six chance of this occurring. What then? Did the fact that from the map it appears that in the counterclockwise direction, 35 of the 40-42 miles (one can add 2 miles doing a loop around a lake if one so chooses) would be uphill? The elevation gain proceeding in this direction is significant. From the description of the hike, it also appears that the 5 mile or so portion that would be downhill near the end is not nearly as steep as one section near the beginning of the counterclockwise version with a 700 foot elevation gain within a half a mile.

Considering these factors, I have to ask the author of this particular guidebook, “Are you f-ing crazy?” Why not offer the clockwise direction as the recommended option and then tell people if they begin on Saturday they’ll hit the busy part of the trail on the weekend? Why not offer both options and point out that the bulk of the hike will be gain?

I didn’t notice these details until I was nearly 8 miles in. The 700 foot climb in a half mile kicked my ass, to say the least. I am pretty fit. I am strong. Yet carrying 30 pounds up the side of a freaking mountain is a lot to ask of a person. If I wanted to rock climb, I’d take up that sport. It’s not my thing. I like backpacking and hiking. I don’t even mind some elevation gain. But that shit was crazy. And at about 2/3 of the way up I started disliking my guidebook author pretty intensely.

Let me back up a bit.

I decided to do this loop alone for many reasons, the biggest of which was that I didn’t have anyone to go with, and I needed a vacation in the worst way. I wanted some kind of spiritual clarity. I’m going through some pretty massive changes in my life. I’m in school again to get my master’s in teaching and planning to leave the practice of law within the year. My littlest girl is starting kindergarten and my oldest has been gone for two months in Paraguay. And of course I recently went through the requisite man troubles that seem par for the course in this lifetime. I was feeling a little bruised from this (still kind of feel bruised from this, truth be told). I really like the guy. He really likes me. Yet he’s terrified of relationships, terrified of functioning much in the world, unhappy with himself and life in general. I cannot fix this. I don’t want to fix it. Yet it doesn’t seem so insurmountable as he seems to think it is and I was (am) frustrated by this. We had planned and booked a vacation together. My youngest daughter was on vacation with her father. My oldest wanted to stay home and sleep. I was so looking forward to getting away and our choice of trip was delightful, especially for a couple of book-loving introverts. We were going to stay in a cabin in the woods near a lake, kayak and hike, and lie around off the grid. We were going to visit Crater Lake and the giant redwoods in northern California. It sounded like pure bliss.

A week prior to our planned departure, he canceled. He was completely freaked out over many things I have no desire to go into here. He wanted a break to work on himself. He probably needs it, but his timing was terrible. I had already paid for the cabin. I really needed to go somewhere. I didn’t want to go by myself on the trip the two of us had planned. It was too far to drive alone and would have been depressing. Every other option I came up with sounded dreary and boring.

Then I remembered my backpacking book. Even though we had planned to hike some of the trails in the book together, I didn’t see why I couldn’t hike one alone. I’m geared up. I wanted to go. The trail called. I chose the trail based on its length for the time I wanted to hike and the solitude. I guess on that front I understand why the author made the counterclockwise choice. I readied my pack and set off, spending the night before departing in Eugene to be closer to the trailhead.

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Spider webs glistening in the sunlight.

Up until the precipice alluded to earlier, I was pretty happy about my guide, yet his descriptions of some parts of the trail left a bit to be desired. I understood, however, that the guide was filled with many hikes and it might not have been possible to include the fact that this trail crossed a LOT of water. Even in August in an extremely dry year, I crossed several bogs and streams rolling down the sides of mountains. Thank goodness for excellent Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking GoreTex hiking boots with ankle support (yes, this is my product placement because these boots are so awesome). They make rock hopping on the side of a mountain a dry and supportive experience. They’re light. They fit well. I am extremely satisfied with these shoes. They are worth every penny I paid for them. They certainly helped when I hit stream after stream and water running out the side of the mountain and often down trails that could not be skirted without practically climbing down the side of a cliff. My foot didn’t feel one ounce of moisture when I fell off a log crossing a creek and landed with one foot ankle deep in mud. And the mud just wiped off the boot. You can’t even tell this happened.

The woods were amazing, filled with boulders and old growth, sky high trees, and lush native undergrowth. Snowberry bushes, rhododendrons, mountain huckleberries, sorrel, Oregon grapes, and more lined every trail. Thank goodness also for zip-on hiking pants. Someone out there in backpacking land has figured out all these details and the equipment available to us while hiking reflects this. I’d started out with the bottoms zipped off my pants. Those bottoms went right back on within a mile of starting out because the trail was so bushy.

The silence and serenity of the forest were just what the doctor ordered. I forgot civilization and became a part of the forest. Gradually as I proceeded several miles down the trail, I heard rushing water that grew louder as I eventually joined the Separation Creek from which the trail gets its name. I passed a couple of campgrounds, but I had only been out for about 3 hours and I certainly was not ready to camp in mid-afternoon, even if the campgrounds looked welcoming. Plus they were near that rushing water and I really wanted more quiet for camping.

After about five miles I came to a flat-topped log bridge across the creek. Creek is a mild word for what was essentially a small river. The bridge was about 12 feet above this and probably 20 feet across. In other words, scary as hell to me. I started to cross, then felt wobbly with my pack and backed up. I’m not fond of high places. I’m fine if it’s impossible to fall, but the fear of falling is strong in me. I stared across the log for a good five minutes trying to work up the courage to cross.

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The Separation Creek bridge. From this photo it isn’t apparent how high it is above the water. It’s a good 12 feet.

Finally I located a long stick to carry with me. I stepped up onto the log, holding the stick in front of me, tapping as I went. I looked only at the place on the log where my the tip of the stick touched and shuffled very slowly across. I didn’t even put one foot in front of the other. Tap the stick forward, shuffle one foot forward, shuffle the other behind. Tap the stick forward, shuffle one foot forward, shuffle the other behind. Do not look down at the water rushing loudly below. Do not consider what would happen if a loud noise startled me. Do not think about falling.

I made it across, elated. I turned and shouted at the log, “I did it!” I’m such a dork.

Crossing the bridge energized me. I was thrilled that I had conquered this fear. I have had dreams of crossing bridges like this one and nearly falling. I’ve had dreams of climbing steep staircases and then not being able to get down. I’ve had dreams of walking out on beams and being stuck in the middle, too terrified to go forward or back. I’m sure Freud would have a field day with me and these dreams of balancing acts in high places. I think it’s probably something to do with feeling anxiety about balancing so much in my life. Who knows? In any case, I was raring to go again after this. I was several hours in and needed the motivation.

The trail did a switchback up the opposite side of the rushing creek. There were several boggy wet places and many of them were filled with tiny little frogs. This brought me further delight, these perfect little creatures living out in the woods away from humans.

Eventually I came to Separation Lake. I stopped to rest and eat. The lake edge is covered with lily pads and downed logs fallen into the water. Dragonflies swooped. Frogs plopped. I saw fishes jumping out in the center. High mountains and trees reflected on the serene water. Seriously, the place was like something from a painting or a meditation on peace. It was utterly exquisite.

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Lovely Separation Lake.

I set down my pack and pulled out my sleeping pad. I ate some lunch then lay on the pad for 20 minutes to rest. I was finally chased off by some kind of a wasp that was very interested in my activities. I’m not sure why. I did not eat anything or carry any kind of food that would have been interesting to a wasp, nor did it seem interested in looking for food. It seemed truly curious about this weird creature lying at the foot of a massive tree near the bank of the lake. I had hiked about 7 miles at this point and was enjoying my rest. I wanted to get another several miles down the trail before camping. I had decided I would settle down an hour before sundown, knowing that the dark would be immense and existing with a flashlight wouldn’t be the easiest thing in the world outside of a tent. The wasp motivated me just enough to keep moving. I had stinger pads in my first aid kit, but that didn’t mean I had any desire to use them. I wound my way gradually downhill for almost another mile before crossing yet another rushing stream.

The forest was so lovely. I was feeling peaceful in nature, and grateful to be there. Wasp or no wasp, the trip so far felt blessed. The guidebook warned that after this last stream, there would be the 700 foot climb. After crossing the water, I looked up the side of the mountain in front of me. I felt a small twinge of qualm, but pushed it down. I could do this. I gathered the pack and began.

By the end of the climb I no longer felt serenity. I was pissed off at the author for his suggestion of this route. I was mad. Mad at the climb, mad at the author, mad at myself for coming, mad at the man for not going on vacation, mad at the world. It was truly amazing how that one brutal climb changed my mood so drastically in a relatively short amount of time. Halfway up I shouted Fuck this shit!. Halfway again I screamed at the guidebook author You’re out of your fucking mind, you sadist bastard! Blessed? Hell no. I felt cursed.

The other issue that developed alongside my anger was a serious pain in my left leg just under my knee. I know now that I suffered Pes Anserine Bursitis, an inflammation of the bursa sac located between the shin bone and the three tendons of my hamstring. Pain in the area is exacerbated by climbing. I am seeing a physical therapist for a shoulder injury and she explained this to me upon my return and subsequent description of the injury. Whatever it was called, it hurt like hell when I climbed. Any elevation gain was met with commensurate pain in my leg. Shit and double shit.

Even after the amazingly steep portion I just climbed, the mountain was not done with me. There was still elevation to gain. Whereas before I bore the climbing with equanimity, now any elevation meant pain. This was not fun. I was no longer looking at the woods as a place I wanted to be. I was now frustrated and hurting and annoyed with the guidebook author for what seemed to me a stupid choice in the counterclockwise option. I was frustrated with the leg. As I mentioned before, I’m fit. I hike a lot. I run. I do my squats. I ride a horse over jumps. These legs work. What was the deal? Is it just that I’m getting old? I found out later that climbing lots of stairs usually brings on this condition. Climbing the side of that mountain was like climbing 20 stories of the steepest, narrowest stairs. I’m fit, but I don’t train on stairs.

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Downed logs covered the forest floor.

Luckily the trail was balanced fairly well between gain and level hiking, and so I was able to continue as I had intended. As evening progressed, I realized that under the trees it was going to get dark a lot faster than it would have out in the non-woods world. I needed to find a place to sleep for the night. The search for somewhere flat off the trail without too much undergrowth distracted me from my irritation. I subscribe to the intention to do as little harm to the forest as possible while trekking through it. I did not want my being in a place overnight to leave any trace if I could help it. Finding a good spot for this proved challenging, as the forest floor in this area was covered with the aforementioned brush. In some places there would be nothing but floor and pine needles, but there were hundreds of downed trees. In every direction trees crossed and crossed. I wondered whether these downed trees were normal for the forest at this elevation of if there was something outside the ordinary causing this. If it’s not normal, it’s distressing because it looked almost like a river had come rushing through and left trees upended everywhere. I wanted to be off the trail, but I didn’t want to climb over many logs to camp.

I passed a few spots that probably would have worked, but I kept thinking I would find something better. It is so easy to keep thinking the next best spot will be right around the next bend or over the next ascent. Darkness was rapidly descending. The time was only just after 7, but trees are excellent at impeding the sun’s rays from penetrating the forest floor. I saw a clearing with no plants and lots of sticks. It was large enough. It didn’t require climbing a log jam to get to it. I decided I could move some sticks to set up my tent. I removed my pack and set to work.

I’m going to admit something that will probably make me look stupid or arrogant or both. Please don’t judge me. Please remember the aforementioned angst in setting out on this trip, the heartache, etc. I usually find it easy to put things together. I can often do so without reading directions or with only a cursory glance through them. I offer this as explanation for why I did not read the instructions on how to set up my new tent. I had lent my old tent to my brother and never got it back. This was fine because the new tent was much lighter than the old one anyway (aluminum — yay!). This meant that I spent a little longer than I would have in the burgeoning darkness figuring out this tent. The actual tent part, the fabric part, was easy. It’s rectangle–lay it on the ground. The poles were weird though and it took some fiddling for me to figure out how the contraption went and to remember the example tent from which I chose this model, an example tent that had been hanging up near the ceiling of the store where I bought it. How’s that go again? I figured it out, but I think I was hungry and definitely tired because I started to feel irritated again.

Once I got all situated and ate some food, I felt better. I was glad to eat and thereby lessen the weight for the next day. I was pleased with this tent that kept the bugs out. Another buzzing wasp was curious and checking me out. It wasn’t yet dark, but heading there. I sat, contemplating my little camp. I had purposely decided not to bring a book. I wanted to be present with myself and the forest. I did, however, bring a journal and a pen. I had written in the journal at the lake, noting the frogs and my isolation. I also noted the number of planes I had heard by that point. During this trip, I heard 20 planes on the first day and 5 the next. Of those 20, about 8 were heard after dark while lying in my sleeping bag, which leads me to believe there were probably more during the hiking portion of my trip during the day that I didn’t notice because I was occupied. That’s a lot of planes.

I napped a bit, then awakened. 8:30 is too early to go to bed. The forest was silent. Absolutely, utterly silent. It was so silent, when a pine needle fell on my tent, I heard the little Pip! then heard as it slid down the side.

I’m not zen. I miss everyone. It isn’t even like I’m trying to escape ME either. I just spend a lot of time with my thoughts already. I’m not gaining anything. I want company. And my knee hurts. Clarity? You know what is clear? I don’t want to be alone! I spend most of my time alone. I’m among people and alone. I spent all day thinking about Milla and Isabel and DC. That’s what I want. I’m boring.

This was the gist of most of the journal entries I wrote under my headlamp out in the woods. Lonely. Alone. I lay back down and drifted off for another fifteen minutes. Then I wakened and ate another snack. The night was so dark, I filmed it. I wrote again in the journal under the headlamp.

My eyes well up thinking about them. I miss my girls so much! I’m so lucky to have such wonderful daughters. I only feel blessed. I feel lucky. I already did. I didn’t have to come out here alone to know this. I miss all of you! I love backpacking, but not alone.

I finally fell asleep for real and slept for the rest of the night. I must have slept really well because it was 9:20 when I woke up! That’s not just late for me, it’s off the charts. I usually can’t make it past 6 a.m. Feeling pressured to get a move on, I ate my breakfast, piddled in a hole behind a log, dressed, and set out. It was at least 20 degrees cooler than it had been the day before, which was actually a welcome change. The forest had been cooler under the trees, but the day before had still been in the 80s. Not a quarter mile past where I set up to sleep, I found a spot that would have been absolutely perfect for camping. C’est la vie I thought. You never know what’s over that next hill.

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Animal scat as long as my foot.

You never know indeed. A half mile up from where I camped I came to a pile of poop on the trail that came from something large. I have not yet been able to identify it using various scat identifiers on the internet. It was definitely from something carnivorous. As you can see from this photo, it was a long as my foot! In reading various sites about animal potty, I have encountered many people wondering why it is these animals poop on the trail, as if in doing so they are sending messages to the humans who walk there. This seems to me a silly pondering. It may indeed be a message, but I don’t think so. One look at the brushy undergrowth makes trail pooping seem preferable to me. Who wants a stick poking you in the butt when you’re doing your business?  I know when I look for places to go, finding a clear place is certainly a preference.

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Enormous log I crossed on the trail. It was so wide, I straddled it like a horse.

As I traversed the trail, it continued to climb. There would be moments of descent, but mostly, up, up, up. My leg was screaming at me. The trail had also not been groomed in a long time. Downed logs crossed and criss-crossed many places. I had climbed over and under several logs the day before, but in just a couple of miles I had to clamber over log after log. Each time my leg let me know that it was not impressed. Finally, after a long uphill stretch, the trail angle increased dramatically again, reminiscent of the steep trail the day before. Pain stabbed my leg so sharply it took my breath away. At the top of the rise, I had to stop. I had wrapped my leg just below the knee in tape before leaving camp, hoping to provide some support, but the tape was doing nothing. I sat on a downed log and examined my map closely. There were a couple of shortcuts that would take the length of the trip down to about 36 miles instead of 40, but nothing eased the elevation gain. I had not seen a single other person on this journey. I hadn’t even seen evidence of any other hikers out there.

Several years ago while visiting a friend in Coos Bay, I suffered a severe sprain in my ankle while running. The ligament detached from the bone. The excruciating pain stopped me cold. I could not move. Hopping–or attempting to do so–hurt so badly that I nearly vomited. I sat and called out, trying to get someone’s attention to rescue me and take me back to my friend’s house, which finally happened, but I was in the suburbs of a small town.

This episode came to me sitting there on the side of a mountain all alone, at least 12 miles from the trailhead. I could continue, but what if the ligament on the inside of my leg detached from the bone the way the ligament in my ankle had? I don’t know enough about such things to ascertain whether this is possible. I just knew that if I became injured, the little whistle in my pack would be meaningless if there wasn’t anyone in the forest to hear it. I could be stranded for who knows how long.

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My daughter has since informed me that even without a signal, a mobile phone can call 911. I had placed my phone on airplane mode in order to maintain battery so I could use it for the gps and camera. But I didn’t know it would work to call 911 when I was out of service range. Actually, I just did a little internet research and determined that 911 works when you don’t have mobile service, meaning you do not have carrier coverage. However, it does not work when you do not have a mobile signal, which means you’re out of range, so this wouldn’t have been an option anyway.

All of this goes to explain why I decided that I had to turn and head back to the trailhead. I was worried about that 700 foot downhill grade. I was even more worried about that damn log bridge. But neither were more scary than the prospect of injury alone in the forest.

I turned around reluctantly. I felt like a failure at first in doing so. Then I realized I hadn’t failed anything. In the end I hiked 24 miles alone carrying a 30 pound backpack. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Plus even though I was lonely, it was fun. I was enchanted with nature. The forest sleep was silent and dark, unlike living in the city where there is constant noise and light. I awakened once in the middle of the night in the forest because I needed to pee, but I fell right back asleep, something that rarely happens in my own bed.IMG_6347

I remembered the camp spots I had passed near the beginning while hiking the day before. I decided to camp at the one closest to the trailhead and then hike the remaining few miles the following morning. I figured I would arrive in mid-afternoon so I could explore a bit around the stream.

The walk back was amazingly easier than the walk in had been. I covered four more miles the second day than I did the first, and hiked nearly exactly the amount of time. Downhill is easier than uphill, obviously. The steep downhill walk was difficult, but nothing compared to the climb. My leg made not one whimper as long as the ground was level or going downhill. There were places where I had to climb, but not enough to cause me any real discomfort.

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Banana slugs mating. Banana slugs are native to the northwest and feed on decaying vegetation. They do not harm gardens.

I kept my pockets stocked with nuts and dried fruit and nibbled along the way. I made it back to the lake rather quickly, considering. I thought about camping there, but it was still rather early, so decided to maintain my plan of taking the campsite closest to the trailhead. I observed the differences in the vegetation as the elevation changed. I took lots of photos, including one of two banana slugs mating. During the entire return trek, I noticed many banana slugs. I think the cooler temperatures brought them out into the open. The day before I had noticed that many of the trees had black spots on them that did not look healthy. I took photos of these as well so I could ask one of my fellow master gardeners what the blight might be.

Throughout these observations I mulled over the relationship. I kept trying to talk myself out of my feelings. I thought going to the woods would expunge my desire. I thought clarity would meaning getting over my feelings. Instead quite the opposite occurred. It was as if left alone with my thoughts and no distractions my heart could fantasize to its complete content. As I walked through the forest observing trees and slugs I would devise a story then spend twenty minutes talking myself out of it. I observed this as it was going on. In a way the observation allowed me to keep some IMG_6378distance from it. I narrated in my head what I wanted to transcribe into my journal. My thoughts go here, and then they go there. Well now. Isn’t that interesting?

I reached the log bridge back across Separation Creek in very early afternoon. I stopped and took off my pack before crossing, shuffling some heavier items to the bottom and pulling out some snacks for my pockets. I then pulled the pack back on, picked up my stick, and crossed the bridge with nary a pause, one foot in front of the other. For some reason it just wasn’t as scary. I don’t know if crossing before conquered the fear, but the trip back didn’t bother me and I crossed quickly. Once on the other side I looked back across the bridge, stopping to take a video, pleased with myself.

The map that came with my guidebook left a lot to be desired as well, even more so than the description of the hike that went with it. I remembered one of the campgrounds clearly, but the other one not so much. It said the campsites were .8 of a mile apart. I figured this would be about 15-20 minutes of walking between the two. I set out. Eventually I came to what I thought was the campsite closest to the bridge. I had been walking for quite a while, longer it seemed than it had been between the site and the bridge on the way there. I chalked it up to the slight elevation gain on this side of the creek.

Less than ten minutes later I came to what may have been a campsite, but there was no fire pit and not much room for a tent. Plus it could not have been .8 of a mile. It came up too fast, and the trail had been slightly uphill. I presumed this could not be the second campsite and kept going. And going. And going.

I never found the second campsite. Reading backwards through the description of this part of the trail and comparing it to the really terrible map, I must have passed the first campsite without knowing it, and the one I passed up thinking it was the first had to have been the second. The clear place that looked campable could not have been a campsite because of its size and lack of a fire pit.

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Trailhead.

Once I made these realizations, I simultaneously realized that I would just have to keep going and head home that same night. I was not thrilled by this. Part of the reason for the length of the trip was to give man some time to think about things without me around. I had been fighting fantasies all day. I wanted to give him a chance away and see whether he missed me at all. Two days simply wasn’t enough time. Looking back I realize I could have just headed home and not called him for another day or two, but at the time this didn’t occur to me. Dumb, much? Maybe. But it didn’t. I decided I would call him when I got back to Portland. The drive would be three and half hours. It would be around 9, but he would be awake.

I kept walking and walking. In the end I hiked 14 miles the second day. The 10 miles hiked the first were more taxing because they had been all uphill, but I was still very tired and glad to reach my car. During the planning of the trip I had briefly considered bringing my Dachshund with me. I remembered this as I changed out of my filthy hiking pants, sweaty shirt and underwear, and exchanged my boots for sandals. Poor little George’s short little legs would not have been able to handle this trip, I was sure of it. It would have been nice to have had the company, but I doubt he would have made it through the first day, let alone the return and the return at the pace I made.

Later that night back in my cozy bed, it felt weird to be home. I had only been in the woods for two full days, yet I felt altered somehow. I went in with some expectation about what clarity I would gain. In the end the trail showed me how foolish my “knowing” really was. I realize now that I did get some clarity, it just wasn’t what I thought I would be clear about. I presumed I would love the solitude. Instead I came back wanting company even more than before. I have been able to accomplish a lot in my life by myself. For me, doing something alone isn’t really a big deal. What would be different is getting to share life’s adventures with others.

Milla wants to go out with me for the next backpacking trip. When Isabel gets bigger, maybe she will want to go too. What is clear to me now is that I want them there with me, enjoying the forest, the slugs, the poop, the lakes, the trees, the boulders, the streams, the elevation gains that make me scream. All of it. I didn’t feel loneliness in the woods; I felt alone. But I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted to share that time and space with others.

I am clear about this: Companionship makes adventures more adventuresome. Sharing life with others makes it more worthwhile. Companionship is what I truly desire. My feet wonder why it took me 24 miles to figure that out, but sometimes that’s just how life is.

A Nation of Toddlers

America is perhaps the most infantile culture in the world. We are a nation of toddlers shouting “Me first,” and “Mine, mine, mine!” Americans are some of the most spoiled, entitled, selfish humans on the planet. Patience seems not to exist. Sharing, taking turns, putting others in front of the self, these are behaviors of maturity, and our culture regards them with disdain.

Nowhere is this more immediately evident than on the road. Someone inadvertently cuts in front another driver and the person whom they displaced acts as if they grabbed their toy from the sand box and ran with it. You turn on your turn signal to change lanes and the cars beside you speed up to ensure you don’t get in. Everyone is in a race to be first, to be in front, and any action that thwarts this desire is seen as a personal affront.

Rationality is the ability to make rational choices, thinking through the consequences and taking actions that make rational sense. Adults are able to distinguish between the feeling process and the intellectual process and have the ability to choose between having one’s functioning guided by feelings or by thoughts.

People living within a child’s frame of reference often overreact emotionally to events that are insignificant in the overall scheme of their lives, and fail to respond to events that are important or crucial to their well-being.

The life of a child is helpless and powerless. It is a place of inequality, fear, and paranoia. As a child, anyone can control and overrun you. As an adult you own your life and destiny. If you remain a child in your adult life, you look at the world around you as dominating, controlling, and dangerous. America views the world from this childlike view. We are the most militarized nation in the history of the world, seeing everything and everyone as a possible enemy, and every action as a possible threat. (Or at the very least this is the excuse offered to the nation of children by the totalitarian toddlers who seek to amass the greatest pile of toys in the sandbox.)

It is evident in gun culture: I don’t like the way you looked at me, I think you threatened me, I’ll pull out my gun and shoot you, and in many places in the country, this is acceptable.

It is evident in America’s level of debt: I want what I want when I want it, even if I can’t afford it, and the nation itself wants what it wants when it wants it, even if it can’t afford it. It will also spend to maximize the profits of a few while ignoring the needs of the majority.

It is evident in the media that will only tell us the story the tellers want us to hear, like paternalistic parents ensuring we get the story that will not result in a tantrum.

It is evident in our approach to politics. We believe what we want to hear, and accept the tropes of the politicians, believing the speeches and ignoring the actions, constantly seeking that which instantly gratifies us and makes us believe everything is okay even when it is not.

It is evident even in our approach to art and culture. Spectacle wins; quality is meaningless. Americans are like small children witnessing fireworks, completely unable to comprehend an exquisite work of literature or art.

It is evident in our unwillingness to see what is happening across the world as the oceans are acidifying, the poles are melting, the trees are dying, the coral reefs are withering, creatures are becoming extinct at an unparalleled rate, and human populations are increasing to untenable levels. The end is near, but damn, we don’t want to know about it. Turn on the Avengers, the American version of Barney, pull the blanket over your head, stick your thumb in your mouth, and just pretend everything is a-ok.

I could go on and on.

It is as if in gradually finding ways to make life “easier,” in giving up the ability to learn to find and store food, to house and clothe ourselves, to learn to keep warm in the outdoors, and to coexist with the planet on which we were created, we have given up the ability to be fully adult and actually, fully human.

 

January showers bring…February flowers?

Today I drilled holes in pots to make olla pots for my garden to water more efficiently. My greenhouse is THIS close to being done, but there is still a hole on one wall up top and today was windy and stormy, so I climbed up and tacked up a piece of plastic to stop the rain from blowing in. While I was perched precariously on the edge of the fence, small nails held between my lips, a hammer balanced in one hand as I held on and attached the plastic there, I saw a honeybee. It was quivering on top of the greenhouse, doing that weird honeybee dance they do, wiggling its back end. I wasn’t sure what it was doing sitting on top of my greenhouse in the wind and periodic rain drips. No other bees were in sight. There were no flowers near it. It looked fragile, there in the wind in the wrong time of year. It was too warm outside for the time of year. Balmy and weird.

My raspberries are coming up. The tulips and daffodils are fully bloomed. The cherry trees in my yard are bloomed. My lilies are popping little points up through the soil. Usually in February I spray my fruit trees with dormant spray, but you’re supposed to do it when they’re dormant, and little buds were already present, so no dormant spray. They’re young and I’m sure they’ll be fine, but there aren’t many pollinators out in this bizarre weather, which means likely little fruit this year. This is not normal and not a pattern from the past. Humans have caused this and humans want to ignore it in favor of the latest football scores or whatever else that helps us to ignore the obvious right in front of our faces. It’s like we have a tumor on the side of our head and want to just look around it and pretend it’s not there. The spring rhyme goes, “April showers bring May flowers.” It’s not January showers bring February flowers, and these flowers that are here in March were here in February. We don’t give Valentine’s lilies, we give Easter lilies. At Easter. In actual spring. It isn’t spring in the northern hemisphere where I live. We haven’t had the equinox yet. It is still winter here. So many seem to forget this while infatuated with the sunny weather. This isn’t normal.

If your children were in harm’s way, you would try to help them regardless of the outcome because you love them. Shouldn’t it be the same for the Earth, which is us? We are the Earth. We should help her instead of committing slow suicide (though not so slow anymore, it seems).

I’m writing this sitting in warm covers in a snuggly bed. I washed all of my bedding today and it smells fresh and clean, and it’s soft and cozy. I’m so grateful to have a warm bed in a warm house, my dogs snoring softly near me as I write. I’m lucky, and I’m grateful for what I have.

Would You Change?

Tell me: If you knew for absolute certain that your way of life today was guaranteed to cause the end of life on this planet within a few decades, if it meant this situation could be reversed if you did so, would you stop completely and live an agrarian lifestyle, or would you say To hell with it. I’m here and there are no guarantees, then continue living as you have been?

I truly want to know.

It’s a pretty safe bet based on the science that our demise (and that of all life) is just around the corner. (For excellent scientific citations, see the article here at Nature Bats Last.) So keep ignoring all the evidence and pretend the wannabe “evidence” is better so no changes must be made? Gotta have those plastic easter eggs after all, right? So I want to know, what level of proof would it take to make you change? Would it have to be “beyond a reasonable doubt”? Or “more likely than not”? What level of evidence would it take to make this change, or would you just keep going as you are even if there was absolute certitude of the world’s demise unless we stop living as we have been.

Again, I want to know. Take this poll and tell me:

When Ice is Fire

Humans, humans. Going about their business. Living their lives. Making their sounds. Taking up more than their share of space everywhere. Assuming they are the center of everything. Ignoring the meteor heading right toward Earth.

Ah, there she goes again, getting all caught up in that climate change hype again.

Yeah, that’s me. Certain our future at this point is a ball of fire headed in a trajectory straight toward the center of the planet. I keep leaning toward the possibility of something else, then turn my face toward the sky and see that meteor hell bound for us and feel that reality forcing me to acknowledge its existence. I feel that meteor’s heat upon my skin. I see the path it is burning and it is impossible not to feel a little frightened, not to feel overwhelmed by the probability of it all, not to feel ashamed for my race, not to feel desperate to do something, anything besides sit back and let it happen.

A huge West Antarctic ice sheet is starting a glacially slow, unstoppable collapse. Alarmed scientists say this means even more sea level rise than previously expected.

Genius, humanity. Good for you.

Every Day is Earth Day, or Should Be

On Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, children wonder why there isn’t a Children’s Day. Their parents tell them Every day is Children’s Day. Perhaps this is true. What isn’t true, but should be, is that every day is Earth Day, and having a small number of people trying to get the rest of the world to focus on it for one small day is not enough, not even close. Earth Day is like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and all the other holidays rolled into one. The Earth is our life giver. We should be celebrating her because she is us and we are her.

Yet as has been the case since humans decided they should be at the top of a triangle instead of flowing in a circle with the rest of the Earth, we have taken steps to dissociate from that connection and now here we are, in a place where we believe the planet revolves around us and the result is that the planet and everything on it is dying. Many respected climatologists believe we can turn this around. I’m a bit more pessimistic, but I certainly don’t believe we should not try. Earth isn’t Earth anymore. As Bill McKibben so eloquently stated in his book by the same name, Earth is now Eaarth, a different place than any of us were raised. We’ve interfered and taken it beyond recognition. Yet, this doesn’t mean we should not take care of what is left. We are Eaarth and Eaarth is us. We owe it to everything, not just ourselves and our children, to wake up and turn things around.

Every day is Eaarth Day, or it should be. Wake up humanity, or it will be too late.

We’re Killing our Planet

We are killing our planet, and while it might be the tiny fragment who benefit in the short term monetarily, it is anyone who refuses to acknowledge or stop the problem who is equally complicit. I start to list all of the things we are doing to this earth, most of which is done in the name of increasing short-term wealth for a very few, but much of which increases conveniences for a lot of us, and the list grows too big to write out in a blog post. There are books listing all we are doing and what could and should be done (Eaarth by Bill McKibben is a favorite), so I don’t really need to list out all of it anyway. Sometimes it is just hearing about a couple of these things within the same two hours that gets my stomach rolling. Today in Master Gardener class we discussed the multiple assaults that are decimating the bee populations. This was followed closely by the big money, big oil bullshit report by the USDA on the Keystone XL pipeline. Most Americans aren’t following this, and of those who are, many don’t realize that those who wrote the report were hand-picked by big oil interests. Gads, when are people going to realize that we are being railroaded on every front? How bad does it have to get?

Herein lies another part of why I rarely write here anymore is because it all just seems too big and too insurmountable. I am simply one tiny voice not being heard. This is not sour grapes; it is reality. I have thought and analyzed and considered and wondered, and then thought about it all again, what is the purpose in my writing here? The conclusion I continually draw is that if I’m trying to get some message out about what we are doing to this earth, this blog adds very little to the conversation, and so I don’t write, not much anyway, because it is so overwhelming.

We have to save our planet. People have got to start caring and doing more than separating their trash into piles that can be recycled versus those that can’t. It is going to take something bigger from each and every one of us. In the meantime, the planet will never be the same. It can’t. We can only hope to make it a place that we can live on for more than a few more decades. We have got to see past this minute and understand our long term actions. We have got to be mindful in every single thing that we do, because it has an impact. We ALL have an impact. Go buy some plastic contrivance for your child’s birthday? Recognize that the plastic contrivance has a long-term impact, then ask whether it is worth the trade off. I cannot imagine anyone who really understands this ever believing that whatever they gain from the plastic contrivance will outweigh the life of our earth. Because it is that important. Every tiny decision adds to the mass that makes everything a very, big deal. It does overwhelm me because it really is that big and because we have chosen not to pay attention, now we will be forced to take action as we are bombarded by climate event after climate event, and lose species after species after species.

I really believe if we are to survive, and honestly I’m not sure I would want to be a part of an earth populated only with humans, we have got to change. We have to stop participating in a system that doesn’t work. We have got to stop polarizing and warring. It will only happen through peace and love, if we can actually get there. I see glimmers of hope, interspersed with stories about the bees and the Keystone XL, but sometimes it is really difficult to maintain equanimity.

A Possible Cure for Insomnia

This piece was published on Huffington Post.

A Possible Cure for Insomnia

I have figured out one possible cure for insomnia.

I started having insomnia in the mid-1990s. Mine is the sort that wakes me up at night, my little brain buzzing like an electrical transmission tower, thoughts of work, thoughts of family, song worms, you name it.

To keep reading, click here.

Tenuous Connection

This article was published on Huffington Post and can be seen here. Regular readers of my blog will recognize it as part of what I wrote yesterday.

Tenuous Connection

How will you and I connect if there is no electricity? How will you and I connect if there are no phones? How will a world made of 9 billion people exist when the only means of communication is the same as that which was available in 1850 (or 1750, when there was no postal service)? What if we no longer have motorized transport in most of the world? We would be stuck with our legs, or bicycles. Where would all of this leave us, back in some-distant-past BC because so few people know how to ride horses or use animals to pull wagons? In this, the third world has already outpaced us. How quickly the strands of our amorphously tangled web of connection would fall away if there was nothing to give us the power to connect with one other as we do in the modern world.

Human “leaders” seem hell bent on war and destruction, and it is not implausible their actions could lead to nuclear war. Fukishima is leaking and we can’t stop it. Weather patterns have changed so drastically it is not just possible, but highly probable that many major catastrophic weather events will occur in the near future.

Finish this article by clicking here.

Why are the Neighbors Murdering the Trees?

Two tall, beautiful trees.  Cutting them down.  Nothing wrong with them.  But the neighbors have paid some tree murderers to come and kill them.  One is gone already.  The other is on its way.  Trees that must be over a 100 years old.  I hate this.  I wish they’d leave them alone. They make the street palatable.  Our street has some dumpy little houses on it.  With the tall, old trees, the street looks stately.  Without the trees, it looks dumpy.  Idiots.  One of them has a bunker in his backyard and no plant life really.  He has giant lights he leaves on all night.  I say if you want to live in a parking lot at a military bunker, go do it, but don’t destroy a beautiful street because you don’t like the plants.

It’s just disappointing, these tree murdering neighbors.

Letters to Annoying People

Dear Hairdresser,
Here is a clue: Just because you think my hair might look “cool” with that fancy cut you propose does not mean that I want you to cut it that way. You are not me. You do not live with me and you are not someone I spend a lot of time with. This means that if you suggest a fab new do and I turn you down, you don’t cut it anyway. It also means you don’t cut it like you want to without saying anything at all. It means you do what I want, whether you like it or not.

Dear Person Who Leaves Dog Shit on the Sidewalk,
The reasons you should pick up your dog’s shit are so inherent and numerous, it honestly blows my mind that you don’t know any better. Perhaps you are simply stupid. If this is the case, you are really too stupid to own a dog. If it isn’t that you are stupid, but rather that you are careless or insensitive, then you are too careless and insensitive to own a dog. You would likely accidentally kill it or starve it to death or something. Whatever the reason, if you leave your dog’s shit on the sidewalk, find the dog a better home and go rub some dog shit on your face.

Dear Woman Who Won’t Step Aside on the Sidewalk,
Yes, you know who you are. You are the bitch who has to prove to everyone she encounters just how ALPHA she is, and in doing so, refuses to step even slightly to the side when encountering others. If someone is approaching you and there is a building or some other obstruction on the sidewalk on their side, and things are open on yours, common courtesy dictates that you step slightly to the side to allow the other person passage. You don’t prove your superiority when you refuse; rather you prove your insecurity, your pettiness, and just how pathetic you truly are. And watch out…one morning when I’ve gone without just enough sleep and my hormones are all over the map, I might actually turn around and whack you in the head with my purse. Hag.

Dear Man from blog Watt’s Up With That?,
You are a fucking moron. I realize from your consistent position near the top of the WordPress Dashboard that you must have a lot of readers. I can only hope these readers actually disagree with you, they just have a stronger stomach than I do. I can’t read your drivel or your claims that the planet’s climate isn’t changing. It doesn’t take a geoscientist to walk outside and figure out that things are drastically different. You can try to claim these are “natural” trends, in spite of the fact that nothing natural on the massive scale we are experiencing occurs in under a decade. You can try to turn people off to buying an environmental car because it’s ugly. You can do all your damage. Just know this: Any success you have in convincing people of your stupidity will only harm your children. There will be no frogs for them to play with, or polar bears or bats or numerous other creatures for them to share the planet with (although maybe that is what you want). Your offspring will fry in the sun and drown in the ocean, and just think, you did it to them! Kudos, asshole.

Dear Rush Limbaugh,
You know, I can’t say it any better than Al Franken. You are a big, fat idiot.

Dear Building Managers Everywhere,
It is not necessary to turn air conditioning up so high that buildings inside are 30 degrees in the summer just because it is 90 degrees outside. Buildings need only maintain a consistent temperature all year round, regardless of what the temperature is outside. And actually, your logic in turning the AC up in the summer is flawed. If you are going to adjust the temp inside according to the temp outside, buildings should be colder in the winter and warmer in the summer because people are wearing more clothes in the winter and fewer in the summer. Maybe if you actually turned the AC down your brains would thaw and this would be obvious.

Dear New York City,
Here’s a concept: Recycling. In a city this size, the fact that recycling isn’t required of buildings and is basically non-existent everywhere else is a deadly sin. You are a ginormous city, the biggest in the US. You have an obligation to the rest of the country and the rest of the world to recycle as much as possible. Do you do it? Not enough. You should be ashamed and get with the goddamned program already. Too much of your shit can be recycled and too much of your shit isn’t. Fix it.

Here’s another concept: Not every damn thing needs to be wrapped in plastic. Guess what? Zucchinis last longer outside of plastic and styrofoam. So do bananas. And guess what else? When a customer at a store doesn’t bring a bag, you don’t have to double-bag in plastic, one is more than enough. Or when a customer buys something like a pop or something else obviously intended to be consumed immediately, you don’t need to bag it at all. Plastic is nasty stuff. There are limited circumstances when it should be used, such as in the medical profession. Otherwise it is a non-biodegradable, environmental disaster and your overuse of the stuff, especially considering your enormous size, constitutes a criminal act. Fix it.

Dear Constant Facebook Posters,
Guess what? I don’t give a shit if you’re off to take a run or a shower or grab a cup of coffee. That isn’t the kind of information I think anyone cares about unless you are a celebrity (And people who care what celebrities do are idiots, so why would you want to please them?). It is nice to have a place where you can find that long lost high school friend and see how they are doing and what is going on in their lives. It is annoying to have to hear how so-and-so had to clean up their kid’s vomit last night or every trivial piece of crap they do every minute of every day. Oh, and guess what else? Pieces of flair are stupid. Throwing virtual water balloons proves you have no life and should consider getting one. Ditto with virtual hugs, “L’il Blue Cove” and all the other crap Facebook flunkies dream up to fuck with you. I have an idea, instead of wasting time on Facebook, how about taking all that extra time you have to waste and heading down to the library or the bookstore and getting a book and reading it. Try it, you might learn something.

Dear Self,
Time to stop bitching and pretend to work. Enough said.

And Then

Liz Cheney is as big a fucking hate-mongering idiot as her devil father.  Spawn of the devil keeps his evil going…

I may have been followed this morning.  A woman I had seen on the train got onto the elevator with me and did not choose a floor while I was on the elevator.  I do have to say though, that she did not get off at the 6th floor as I did.

When I go to businesses that ask my name, I make one up.  Your name?  Aristophanes.  Spell that one.  Then pronounce it.

We are losing.  Here is my prediction of what is going to happen:   The ginormous corporations will continue to get bigger and proliferate.  The masses, increasingly ignorant and sedated with fast food, television, noise,  sports, and religion will become even stupider, turning back into the peasants of the middle ages.  The power elite are going to win and the poor are going to help them.  The poor want to be rich and if they were given the means, they would act the same way so they don’t question being constantly sold and mollified with product, trying so hard, kissing vacations goodbye and futilely trying to shovel their toddlers into Harvard.  Since they will not become a part of that which they seek, they go along and buy their lottery tickets, stuffing their faces, plugging earphones into their heads and turning up the music so they can drown out their own oblivion.  They believe it when they are told there is a magnificent being in the sky who cares about them and will take care of them after death so they don’t have to concern themselves with the fact that the place in which they are actually living right here and right now carries other possibilities.    Numbed and choking on corn and petroleum, they will let the power class continue to take them and take the planet.  In time, those of us who are in the minority and see the damage and want change may rise up and revolt, but success is an unlikely prospect.

And a thought from my friend Carin:  Something that’s been bugging me.  Self righteous boobs claiming to be upstanding and moral whilst they are posing half nude with photographers, getting boob jobs and participating in a meat, sorry, “beauty” pageant.  Or teenage twits who claim they are the voice of abstinence-only sex ed while holding their baby that they conceived obviously not through abstinence.

As I walk to the subway, ride the subway, and walk to my office, I’m filled with thoughts and observations.  The moment I walk through the door and sit down under the flourescent lights, the thoughts fritter away into the ether.  I wonder as I’m walking if I should stop and write some of the thoughts into my notebook, but I don’t do it.  My notebook used to be full of thoughts, but right now the only words there are a note I took to remind myself to contact my daughter’s school about an art teacher who smashes art pieces she deems unworthy of her almighty judgment.  Other than that, nothing.  Is it the flourescent lights?  Maybe it’s the air-conditioning.  Maybe it blows the thoughts from my brain.

Clear Cuts National Forest

One thing that struck both of us immediately as we set out early January 8 was how shocked we were at the bright, sunny, and simply warm weather.  As we crossed the Siskiyou Pass, there was so little snow, the landscape around us looked almost summer-like in places.  Then as we headed into California and passed through national forests, Shasta and Lassen, we were apalled at the level of clear cutting. The forests there were simply obliterated.  We decided to take some photos.

Dear Oprah

I read today of communities in Ghana where people die daily from dysentery and disease because they do not have clean water.  The watering holes are foul and bacteria laden.  There is no fuel for citizens to burn to boil the water and kill germs.  What these people need are water treatment facilities.  I got to thinking about your generosity building schools in Africa and realized you could probably use your influence help with a project of this magnitude.

Of course I realize this isn’t a possiblity in many countries in Africa.  There is so much violence and strife, any efforts would be thwarted.  But Ghana has held proper elections since the early nineties.  They have worked to rise above civil war and to make their country a safe place to live.  Isn’t it time to help them along this journey by bringing them clean drinking water?

Our intentions are worthy.  We send bags of grain, but they never arrive.  We pull musicians together to sing about children and we buy the cd’s.  Yet what these people really need is good, strong infrastructure to help them on the path to self-reliance.  We have the expertise. We have the wealth.  We should put it to good use.  Oprah, you can help.

America the Ugly

Milla’s dad informed me that a store I was looking for was in Longmont, Colorado.  Considering I have explored the south and the east of Boulder fairly well, and also considering Milla was spending the day with her dad, I decided to traipse on over to see if I could find the store and check out the town.

No offense to Longmontites, but what a disappointment.  Longmont is covered in ugly, bland, spread-out big box stores and their smaller corporate cousins.  The houses were modern bland equivalencies, the sort preferred by developers who buy their blueprints from Plans-R-Us.  Maybe I turned around to leave too soon, but I did not discover a prettier town center.  I had to get out.  The place sucked the life out of me.  Like so many truly homogenized American towns, the place had no aesthetics, no character, nothing.  No wonder so many Americans are depressed.

Going to Longmont, Colorado was exactly the same as going to Redding, California, which was exactly the same as going to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which was exactly the same as going to Beaverton, Oregon, only flatter.  With few exceptions, American towns have zero character.  It is impossible to tell you are in another city in another state other than the fact that the license plates are different.  People lament the lack of community in America today; perhaps part of the problem is that we can’t tell one community from the other any more.

Longmont resembled the tri-cities area of eastern Washington nearly identically.  One thing Oregon has that seems to be sorely lacking in both Washington and Colorado is an urban growth boundary.  In both Colorado and Washington, buildings sprout seemingly out of nowhere, randomly placed wherever the landowner had a whim, regardless how well it fits with the landscape or where a town ends.  Lots of developers in Oregon bitch about the growth boundary, but I’m all for it.  It forces people to be creative with the space they do have.  In towns in Oregon where the boundary has been extended, the decimated orchards and fields are replaced with cloned McMansions, cloned townhomes, and hideous utilitarian corporate chains.  In the coming weeks, yards will be filled with hideous, plastic, walmart holiday atrocities.  Wretched.

While I’m not a huge fan of overly ornate, clean has translated into purely utlitarian, which basically means completely ugly.  Who knows, maybe clean wasn’t the culprit.  Perhaps it has more to do with rape and pillage development, make as much money as possible and get out.  Whatever happened to wanting to make something look nice?  Whatever happened to originality?  It was all sacrificed at the alter of the almighty dollar.

There is that Cree proverb that states, “Only when the last tree has withered, the last fish has been caught, and the last river has been poisoned, will you realize you cannot eat money.”  It seems when money is the only consideration or the highest consideration, not only are life and nature sacrificed, so too is beauty.  What a shame.

We should change the name of the song “America the Beautiful.”  It does not hold true any longer.  We are now America the Boring, America the Utilitarian, America the Ugly.  We don’t need some futuristic, sci-fi warning of a world in a plastic bubble to worry about.  We’re already there.

Lowering the Glass Ceiling

See this piece on Huffington Post:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lara-m-gardner/lowering-the-glass-ceilin_b_128346.html

I would like to take you on a journey of the imagination…

Imagine that Sarah Palin is not a woman, but a man.  We’ll call him Mr. Palin.  Mr. Palin has been mayor of a small town in Alaska, and governor of that state for less than two years, a state whose entire population is less than that of most US major metropolitan areas and in this position.  In this position, Mr. Palin is being investigated for questionable conduct.  Imagine that he obtained his passport within the last couple of years, and that he considers foreign policy experience living next door to another country.  Take it further and imagine he believes the earth was created in a few thousand years, that dinosaurs roamed the earth with humans, and that creationism should be taught in public schools.  Suppose also that this man believes women should not have the right to choose, and that rape victims should pay for their own rape kits.  Imagine Mr. Palin hunted moose from a helicopter and sought removal of environmental protections for polar bears. Imagine he has no knowledge of financial markets, the cold war, weapons systems, or Middle Eastern history.  Imagine all of this and more.

If this were true, and Sarah Palin were a man, would he have even been on the longest list of potential US vice-presidential candidates for any political party?  It would be unthinkable.

Why are the standards for this woman running for vice-president so much lower than they would be for a man?  Shouldn’t the standards be the same?  To determine whether someone did not get a job because of something other than merit, simply slip whatever that person is not into the position in your mind and ask yourself whether the same standards would apply.  If there are disparities in the standards required between two people seeking the same position, it is quite likely that discrimination is occurring in some form, even if it is allowing someone to be worse at something in an effort to pretend there is no -ism taking place.

Here, we have a woman running for vice-president who is grossly underqualified.  Those who support her claim that her position as a vice-presidential candidate is evidence of women shattering the glass ceiling.  Actually, the opposite is true.  Allowing her to take a position for which she is not qualified and giving her extra points for being a woman is the ultimate in sexism:  it is using gender as a qualifier rather than merit.  Beyond the obvious arguments against her abilities, her position as a vice-presidential candidate assumes on some level that a qualified woman could not perform the job.  Sarah Palin’s place on the Republican ticket does not shatter the glass ceiling, it lowers it.

My Response to a Comment

Some person commented on the letter I posted written by Lyra Kilston and Quinn Latimer.  In the letter, Kilston and Latimer make several statements about Sarah Palin.  They then ask that those who agree Palin is the wrong choice for VP and that she is not representative of women send them a statement to this effect. It was their intention to take all such statements and create a blog with all of the statements they receive.  I posted the letter because I fundamentally agree with the premise that Palin is wrong for VP and wanted to allow others who agree to add their voices to the mix.

The commentator stated that I lose “credibility” when I publish something that isn’t the truth.  On that point, I agree.  If I am asserting something factual and it is wrong or inaccurate, I lose credibility in my assertion.  I also agree that I should fact check something before I publish it.  (Incidentally, I did check to ensure the purported letter writers had in fact written and disseminated the letter.)  However, my issue with the commentator and the reason I am responding via blog post is to point out that I did not allege anything other than that I agreed with the letter writers.  How could I fact check my own opinion or lose credibility when I have not attempted to persuade anyone of anything that would require my words be reliable?  I have little doubt that the comment writer intended that I somehow lose credibility by agreeing with persons she claims make inaccurate statements, yet I reassert my original assertion:  I agree with the letter writers.  No one should have any reason to disbelieve this assertion.  Does anyone think that in posting this letter I might actually want Sarah Palin for vice-president?  I seriously doubt it.

The fundamental point of the Kilston Latimer letter is that Sarah Palin is wrong for the vice-presidency and that although she has a vagina, she does not represent American women.  They wanted to create a statement by women saying as much.  Because I find Palin’s positions on a number of issues to be completely reprehensible, I wanted to add my words to this statement.  I wholeheartedly believe that Sarah Palin is the wrong choice for vice-president of the United States.  She may not have taken the steps necessary to successfully ban books in her library, but she asked what would happen if she tried (per factcheck.org).  Yet her position on certain books is the tip of the iceberg as far as I’m concerned.  Her lack of education and experience, her methods for management, her perspective on the environment, her religious views, her previous actions while in office as mayor and governor, as well as so much more all compile to create what I perceive as a disaster should the unthinkable happen and she and McCain are elected.  If there is any doubt as to my credibility in holding this opinion, I hope this post puts it to rest.

We Need to Help Haiti

Imagine Katrina hitting New Orleans not once, not twice, or even three times.  Imagine just as one storm flits away, people are dying and starving, levies are bursting, the city is in utter chaos.  Then it gets hit again, and again, and again.  This is the situation facing Haiti today, and Haiti has even fewer resources and options than New Orleans did when it was hit by Katrina.

We are not hearing enough about Haiti, and what we are hearing only skims the surface of what needs to be discussed. Haiti has been bombarded by storms, several in just the last few weeks.  The country has been so deforested in the last five decades that there are no root systems to hold the ground together.  Water sits on the soil creating a muddy disaster area.  There is no ground in which to grow crops, there are virtually no trees, there is no fuel to heat or cook with, the country is nearly under water, and its cities are cut off from the rest of the world.  We need to help, not just the problem today, but the global problems the country faces.

Immediately, people are suffering. They need food, clothes, and shelter from the elements.  Then we need to help them with their long term problems.  The country needs to be properly reforested.  There needs to be an alternative fuel plan so citizens do not have to continue using the remaining forests as a fuel source. Food security needs to be created and developed by addressing unfair trade practices and creating jobs.

For more information on this global problem, see this article in Wikipedia and another that gives some detail on the complexity of Haiti’s problems.

I Don’t Get It

Here’s the thing I don’t get.  What damn difference does it make whether climate change is man-made or not?  If we know we can help slow its progress, why not do it, regardless whether we caused it? Why let it continue unabated until we are all dead simply because “it’s not our fault”?  Alaska is falling in the ocean.  Hurricanes are destroying cities and killing thousands every year.  Wet places are getting wetter. Dry places are getting drier.  Hot places are getting hotter.  Cold places are getting colder. Whether we caused it or not, it is happening.  The evidence of this is irrefutable.  We can slow these changes down, but we don’t want to because we didn’t do it?   Such thinking is ridiculous.

I know there are those who think that because we didn’t cause it, we can’t fix it.  Ample evidence exists to the contrary, but I doubt these naysayers will change their minds.  What does it hurt to try?  If by some anomaly we cannot affect the changes, we are certainly no worse off than if we did nothing; we are in exactly the same place.  But if we can affect the changes and do nothing, the results are going to be catastrophic.  They already are.

Every time I hear the discussion about whose fault it is, man or nature, I want to ask Who cares?  I just don’t get it.  Whose fault it is does not matter.  What does matter is whether we can change it and actually try to do so.

Empathy for Kurt Cobain

Life is surreal. It’s amazing how twisted up people can make things.  I constantly hear stories that from the outside seem to have such simple solutions, yet the parties involved are fully unwilling to act simply, choosing instead to remain mired in complications.  Humanity.  It appears we are doomed to destroy ourselves, but before we go we are all going to make certain we’re as miserable as possible.  How often, I wonder, could one’s life be different with the simple choice of just letting something go?  Ah, what do I know anyway?

Blogging non-sequitur: I did not know that Willie Nelson wrote Crazy.

So yesterday I went to Aberdeen, Washington.  The trip was an homage to Kurt Cobain.  We listened to Nirvana the whole way there.  Okay.  I’m joking.  That would have been pathetic.  Aberdeen was an afterthought.  We listened to a lot of music, but none of it was Nirvana.  My friend and I decided to go to Long Beach to get out of Portland since we both had the day free.  We got to Long Beach and although it was brilliantly sunny, the wind felt like it was blowing off the side of a glacier.  We walked out to the ocean then turned around and went right back to the car.  Our ears were frozen.  The best part of the visit was our dogs.  His dog was thrilled to pieces.  Oh my God, we’re at the beach!  There is sand!  There is water!  There are people to sniff!  I can get wet!  I can run!  I can wag! My dog was not thrilled to pieces and clearly thought we were insane.  He followed behind me whimpering.  You have got to be kidding.  Can’t you pick me up?  My paws are freezing!  Is that water?  That’s water.  No way.  I am NOT crossing that water.  Oh for Christ’s sake, are you crossing that water?  What is wrong with you people?  That water is freezing.  Do you feel that wind?  Seriously.  I can’t believe you would volunteer to come out here into the sand and water and wind.  There must be something deranged about human beings.

I think Piper was right.  It was too cold, windy, and wet.  So we decided to leave Long Beach and head to Aberdeen.  It was only another hour north and Kurt Cobain grew up there.  We had to see if the town was anything spectacular, particularly since he’d become famous and then died.  I mean, towns love that stuff, don’t they?

Apparently not.  Wow.  That is about all I can say.  We both lamented having failed to bring any sort of recording devices beyond the cameras in our mobile phones.  I don’t know that I can convey in words the pitifully depressed state of the place.  I actually had the thought that I could understand why someone living there would want to commit suicide.  Of course, Kurt wasn’t there when he committed suicide and had probably not been there for a long time, but it gives one the sense of the place to know that the impression it leaves is that of the will for self destruction.

The approach into town from Long Beach leads one by miles and miles of decimated forests.  Good for you, logging companies!  It appears you have ensured there will be no lumber to harvest for decades!  The land was fully raped and pillaged.  We passed the Weyerhauser Mill, drove along a stretch of uninviting highway lined with storage warehouses and beaten down manufactured homes.  We came to a bridge and wondered whether Aberdeen continued on the other side or if the next locale was Hoquiam.  We discovered to our delight that Aberdeen did indeed continue to the far side of the bridge. Unfortunately since our visit was an afterthought, we arrived just shortly after six p.m.  This meant that nothing was open except the corporate strip mall and a porn shop.  We browsed the porn shop.  It was the same as all other porn shops I have ever frequented.  The funny part of the visit there was that a man sat at a counter and another man browsed horrible videos.  There were rooms in the back and we heard noises leading us to believe there were men back there as well.  But as far as we could tell, other than me, there were no other women in the place.  I informed my friend that the other men in the place were probably impressed he had a real girl with him and not a plastic pussy.  Good times.  The other highlight of our Aberdeen visit was the Star Wars store, but unfortunately it was closed.  Today I discovered quite by accident a similar store less than a mile from my house.  Since we missed the Aberdeen version, we’ll have to hit the one here.

The homes in Aberdeen were run down beyond belief.  My friend suggested that perhaps I could purchase one there for cash out from the money received in the sale of my house.  We took down the address of a place for sale to look it up.  I did and it is actually possible to buy a house there for 1960’s prices.  I saw several for between $40k and $80k.  The only problem is why would you want to?  Yuck.

Visiting freezing Long Beach and decripit Aberdeen was a fun impromptu road trip. We went to the grocery store in Aberdeen and bought jelly beans and went to the bathroom.  The bathroom had a beautiful view of the bay.  Seriously amazing.  Too bad it was wasted on a grocery store bathroom.  We drove home on the non-scenic highway through Olympia.  An enjoyable time was had by all.

So Unbelievable

 

My daughter likes box elder bugs. They are these harmless beetle things that only live for about a week. They have red stripes on their back and they fly, their wings little red capes whirring behind them in flight, kind of like little insectian super heroes.  They enjoy warmth, so they hang out in windows and places with heat. They do not bite. They do not sting. The do not emit smelly odors. They do not eat houseplants. They do not do anything whatsoever that harms humans or their dwellings. The biggest complaint about box elder bugs is that they like to come in the house where it is warm, and who can blame them? box-elder.jpg

I did a google search on box elder bugs for my daughter. She loves the things. They are fairly prolific around here in the fall and spring while it’s still warm but not terribly hot. She fills her pockets with them. I told her I was writing about her and box elder bugs and she said, “Oh, I haven’t played with them in a while, cute little things.” That should give you some idea of Milla’s persuasion towards box elder bugs.

Imagine my surprise then to learn that most sites about box elder bugs deal with how to kill them. They are called pests for wanting to come inside. One site listed some nasty poisons a person can use for box elder elimination, including bifenthrin (possible human carcinogen), cyfluthrin (moderate acute toxicity and suspected endocrine disruptor), deltamethrin (a neurotoxin that attacks the nervous system), lambda cyhalothrin (moderate acute toxicity and suspected endocrine disruptor), permethrin (highly toxic to fish and cats), and tralomethrin (effects include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation, fatigue, and in severe cases, seizures may develop).  All of these insecticides are toxic poisons and can harm humans, sometimes even in smaller quantities. Many of them are quite harmful to the animals we share our lives with, as well as those we would rather avoid. What I find so unbelievable is that people would bring toxic chemicals into their homes, spray them, spread them, breathe them, rather than share their space with a harmless insect that does nothing except try to get warm and dies in under a week anyway.  Where is the sense in that?

When I was in law school, Milla’s father and I were still together. We wanted to buy our own house.  We took the advice of a well-meaning, but misguided friend who assisted us in making this purchase. She owned a wealthy home-building company whose clients consisted mainly of older, usually conservative people with lots of money. We did not take our lifestyle into account whatsoever when we took her advice to build our own house as far as possible from the center of town in a suburb.

What a mistake.  We ended up in this country suburb.  As is often the case in these developments, it was named for what it had been:  Big Meadow. The meadow was gone and in its place were stepford houses in limited shapes and sizes, with perfectly manicured lawns and neutral paint, as required by the unrelenting neighborhood regulations. We did not last long there. I quickly realized I was not suited for this. I needed a house to fix up, and since ours was brand new, there wasn’t a lot to do to it. I needed plants to love. We gave the house our love, built a fence and a dog run, but we simply did not fit in. The neighbors brought us proselytizing literature on a weekly basis.  Every visit to the store provided an invitation to our auto windshield to attend a local church play. We were one of only a handful of families who recycled.  Basically, we were major sore thumbs.

Our immediate next door neighbors were especially different from us. The main thing about them that I remember is that on periodic afternoons the woman of the house had her teenage sons out in the yard and driveway with square-nosed shovels to search for garter snakes to kill. She did not want them anywhere near her home. Since her house backed up to the edge of what had been the big meadow the neighborhood obliterated, garter snakes were frequently in evidence. After her sons killed a sufficient number of garter snakes, she would spread poison all over her yard to kill insects. She would kill the harmless garter snakes that would have eaten the insects and chose instead to cover her yard in toxic chemicals.  Insane.

I am constantly amazed at the irrationality of human beings. I am certain that irrational behaviors are likely part of my makeup simply because I am human. I would like to think though, that most of my ridiculousness isn’t destroying the planet.  I hope not. I can hear it now how someone just doesn’t like the legs on bugs. Spiders give them the creeps. They don’t like the “idea” of something coming into their bed. So they’ll spread toxic chemicals all over their house and lawn to rid themselves of “pests.” At least the chemicals aren’t creepy and crawly.

I find it ironic that acts of compassion and kindness are considered humane, as if placing the name of homo sapiens on such behavior distinguishes us from other creatures on earth. Yet the only thing that really distinguishes humanity is our ability to systematically annihillate ourselves and our planet because of silly things like insect legs or the possibility that another creature might come into our beds. I just don’t get it. Perhaps a better definition for humane would be anything except compassion and kindness since our race seems hell bent on destroying this place we call home. At least we can say that while we were on our way out we didn’t have to share our lives with the box elder bugs.

When There is Nothing Left, Maybe We’ll Figure Out We Can’t Eat Money

I hope all the naysayers out there who want to claim climate change isn’t happening are the first ones to drown when sea levels rise.  Don’t try and tell me bees spontaneously die off en masse every few thousand centuries or that “random” changes occur up and down, and we’re just in an “up” period.  There is nothing random about what we are experiencing.  It’s just too fast.

When I was a child, the state I grew up in had predictable weather patterns, patterns that had held since the state became a state in the mid-1800’s (and probably for centuries before white man came along and took notice).  Ten years before Al Gore was trying to convince us that the world is getting warmer, I noticed the patterns changing where I live.  Again, it’s just too fast.

Go ahead, you who want to claim science is wrong.  Keep doing things the way they have been done.  You can choke on your money as you drown in the rising oceans and burn in the unprotected atmosphere.  Good luck to you.  Maybe the planet will have a small chance at survival if all of you are bones at the bottom of the sea.  Those of us who are left can work to live in harmony with what is left of the planet after you’ve finished raping and pillaging and finally drowning in it.